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Arrested publican says he was standing up for common sense


HITTING THE HEADLINESDonal Byrne outside his pub in Aghamore last week. Pic: Paul Mealey

Anton McNulty

A PUBLICAN who was arrested after allegedly failing to comply with the Covid regulations after opening a ‘wet’ pub says his intention was to ‘stand up for what is right and make common sense’.
Donal Byrne, the licensee of Eileen’s Bar in Aghamore, was arrested by Gardaí on Thursday evening, December 10, just hours after he reopened the pub. A post on Eileen’s Bar’s Facebook page last week stated that the pub was opening on December 10 as the first Covid-free pub in Ireland with Covid testing for customers before they entered the pub.
The decision to provide quick Covid testing was widely reported in the national media, and Gardaí subsequently arrived at the pub at 7.05pm on Thursday. They spoke to the licensee and he was encouraged to comply with the Covid regulations. Supt Gabriel Moran said that the ‘matter only went to enforcement when our officers failed to get compliance’.
Only pubs which serve a substantial meal made on the premises are allow to open to the public and Eileen’s Bar did not serve food on Thursday, despite serving food earlier this year. It is understood Donal has now secured the services of a chef and Eileen’s Bar is due to open again this coming Thursday evening.

Tests for patrons
The Covid testing took place in a designated area outside the pub and was carried out by a trained tester using a kit rom Communicare Medical Supplies in Claremorris. Rapid antigen testing, which provides results in minutes, is regarded to be less accurate than the standard PCR or polymerase chain reaction tests.
Customers waited in an outside  testing area and were only admitted when the result was negative.
Following his arrest, Mr Byrne wrote on his Facebook page that what happened was a ‘sad reflection on our government and proves they no longer fight for the people nor represent us fairly’.
“I apologise to anyone who was offended, or that I let down, this was not my intention. My intention was to stand up for what is right and make common sense. The problem with common sense is that unfortunately, it’s not that common. I love this county and this country, but it is not the same place I learned to love. It is no longer the country our brave men and women fought for. It is now sadly a country where we hand out huge pensions to the Government and forget about the normal Joe soap,” said Mr Byrne, who is the founder of the hugely successful Big Red Barn company.
Alan Gielty, the Chairman of the Mayo branch of the Vintners Federation of Ireland said that all pubs should be allowed to open in the country with restrictions.
“The vintners opinion all along is that all the pubs should be opened. The virus must be awful clever if [it knows whether] you are having food or not. If you are opening your pub and you have your social distancing there shouldn’t be any problem. I guarantee you that there are shebeens open all over the place and people who want to get a drink will get a drink,” he said.